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NRF 2023

NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show Highlights Innovation and New Ideas

Bringing together players from across the retail industry, NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show featured innovation, new ideas and product discovery. Over 30,000 attendees listened to keynote speakers, took part in educational sessions and panel discussions, discovered new products, services and vendors and networked with industry colleagues. 

Lindsey Thompson, senior editor with the North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA), attended this year’s show, and she shares her takeaways and insights applicable to the independent home improvement industry. For more highlights, listen to her recap on Episode 79 of the “Taking Care of Business” podcast here.

Technology Comes to Life

The Expo floor was buzzing with some of the biggest names in retail vendors including Salesforce, SAS, Amazon, Zebra and Theatro. 

In the Startup Zone, some of the brightest and newest companies shared their retail services and products. These breakthrough vendors offered solutions and ideas for retailers across different retail disciplines from food service to fashion. 

Covering the latest trends and topics in technology, the Innovation Lab showcased companies on the forefront of innovation. The companies shared their innovations in artificial intelligence, robotics, Web3, metaverse, virtual reality, autonomous delivery and the Internet of Things. 

Tyler Banken, vice president of information technology for Dunn Lumber Co., was at NRF 2023 exploring the different technology options for his operation. 

“This is actually my first time at the show but I’ve found it has been helpful to introduce me to companies and vendors,” he says. “We’re looking to possibly implement electronic shelf labels, so I’m talking with vendors for that technology, and I’m also exploring options for new customer queues.” 

Vendors to Watch in 2023:

  • PullLogic. Enabling retailers and manufacturers to make it easy to shop, automate the sales process, and have the right products in the right locations to maximize “Product Availability.”
  • Marpipe: Marpipe uses multivariate testing to measure the performance of every possible combination of creative variables in your ads — images, headlines, colors, calls to action and much more.
  • Shiftsmart: Connecting companies with skilled workers to increase fulfillment, reduce turnover, and improve quality

Welcoming New Vendors

With over 50 vendors participating, the Consumer Product Showcase gave up-and-coming entrepreneurs the opportunity to share their products with attendees. 84% of the products featured in the showcase were from minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, disability-owned or LGBTQ+-owned companies. Product categories represented included beauty, fashion, food and beverage, baby care, home, jewelry and pet. Attendees could vote for the coolest product and chose CordBrick as the runner-up, which won $10,000 for its weighted cord holder. First place went to Chica Beauty, a beauty solutions company that won a $15,000 cash prize.

Hot Products to Check Out: 

  • Vitavate. A premium dietary supplement brand intentionally designed to support heart health, energy and focus.   
  • FlexPost. Products include a flexible and easy to install base that provides the perfect long-term solution for parking lot sign posts and bollards.
  • SoilWand. SoilWand is the world’s most unique garden tool, that enables you to add or remove toolheads and adjust them to your specific needs. 

Learning and Growing

From keynote speakers to panel discussions to educational sessions, attendees were able to dive into industry topics and insights. Keynote speakers included decorated Olympian and gymnast Simone Biles, Walmart U.S. president and CEO John Furner, Harvard Business School’s Dr. James Cash, Macy’s chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette, Nordstrom president and chief brand officer Pete Nordstrom, Lowe’s chairman and CEO Marvin Ellison, Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen and actor, producer and writer Kal Penn. 

Numerous panels addressed technology and how it fits into your operation to make your employees and business more efficient. Customer engagement and experience was another popular topic for the sessions, along with the future of physical stores and omnichannel strategies. 

Key Takeaways: 

  • “At Neighborhood Goods, we try to foster and maintain magnetism and give reasons for people to visit. We avoid the gimmicky, it has to be relevant for our customers. Fundamentally, retail is a traditional experience, and while tech is great you need to stay grounded in what works for you and your customers.” —Matt Alexander, co-founder and CEO of Neighborhood Goods
  • “At Studs, it’s our team that brings our customer experience alive and the physical store sets the backdrop for an amazing experience. The company came to be because we looked at what didn’t exist in the marketplace and saw ways we could make that missing piece a viable business.” —Anna Harman, co-founder and CEO of Studs
  • “In retail, you’re in the convenience business. Focus on designing innovative solutions to remove friction and hurdles, creating point of sale experiences that encourage purchases and hunting out moments of waste or frustration through technologies like cashierless, delivery, product access and seamless payments.” —Cassidy Beadle, Retail Client Innovation director for accenture
  • “Technology and innovation should be all about what’s best for your customers, not necessarily what’s the latest and greatest out there. When implementing any new technology, it’s okay to fail, just fail fast and know when to shut it down.”—Yevgeni Tsirulnik, senior vice president, Innovation and Incubation for Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions

About Lindsey Thompson

Lindsey joined the NHPA staff in 2021 as an associate editor for Hardware Retailing magazine. A native of Ohio, Lindsey earned a B.S. in journalism and minors in business and sociology from Ohio University. She loves spending time with her husband, two kids, two cats and one dog, as well as doing DIY projects around the house, going to concerts, boating and cheering on the Cleveland Indians.

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